Take a load off your shoulders!

Harkening back to the earliest days of our Facebook Live presentations .. like, wow! February! … one of our first videos was about everyone’s favorite place to hold tension - the shoulders!

With few exceptions (like that one client I had who held his tension in his feet - I hear ya, brother!), this is probably The Most Popular destination for holding stress.

(Though, I’ve become curious: Where would it be if we tried NOT to hold our stress there? Thoughts?)

I have also been asked (and maybe Bill has, as well) if I think their shoulders are tight due to posture or stress.

My answer is generally ‘yes’, because ultimately, the end result is the same: restriction of movement and therefore blood flow, potential nerve impingement, discomfort or pain, and if left, unchecked, can affect other parts of the body … like the neck, arms, hands, and, as we will see in later posts, the rib cage, low back and hips.

But at the root, in either case, are habits - whether of posture* or emotional response, and along with these habits, our stronger and most-oft-used parts get used more, whether we want them to or not (I’m looking at you, upper traps!), and round and round the cycle goes.

One more thing to consider - how we’re walking.

Our stability and balance ideally is within the harmonious functionality of the core, the pelvis and the hip muscles. When we lose that - whether due to age**, a proprioception-disrupting event like a stroke, a compromising event like surgery or injury, or even wearing high heels - we may end up delegating our sense of stability to the upper body, locking up the shoulders and neck.

A lot to think about, I know.

But, we can start where we are.

Try this:

In this video, I demonstrate a few simple exercises to help you practice moving the arms at the shoulder joint without involving the muscles that raise your shoulders into your ears.

I highly recommend practicing with a mirror so you can check yourself.

With entrenched habits, we rarely are aware of what we're doing, even if it "feels" right.

Have fun with it, and be sure to let us know how it goes!


*Side note: When I’m speaking of ‘posture’, I’m not suggesting a simple fix of pulling your shoulders back. (Please see my ebook: 6 Things to STOP Doing for Better Posture for more about that.) Yes, our 10-12 pound heads, as they drift closer to our computer screens, etc. is yet another load we’re carrying on the shoulders, but, the truth is, trying to rearrange certain body parts for a better position and hold it there for eternity is only going to create more chronic tension. There are better ways to mobilize and balance the forces that bring about alignment and ease.

To learn more, contact us, or check out our classes!

** And yet another side note: When I say age, I’m not suggesting that getting older is the cause of diminished balance; only that the habits of not reinforcing our balancing mechanisms with use have been around longer, and therefore, are more likely to appear as we get older.

Live! From Chester County, PA, It's....

..... just us. :)

But, hey! We did our first Facebook Live video today! 

This one is a nice wakey-wakey-routine for the spine and the whole body (Bonus: Bill opens the show with a ukulele piece - sung to the tune of "Folsom Prison Blues" - not to be missed!)

With the humility of the learning curve balanced with the gig dust of FINALLY doing something we said we were gonna do ages ago, we're still kinda excited.

Admittedly it was weird for me (Gina), heading right into 'teacher' mode first thing on a Monday morning (which is typically my 'work-at-home-but-not-till-9-ish' day), and perhaps it showed a little. But, I, and we, actually liked getting back into moving our bods before starting the rest of the day (or, even finishing our coffee...!)

We plan to offer these 15-20 min vids at 7:30am EST every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on our P4H Facebook page.

Being there live is kinda fun as viewers can ask questions, offer comments etc in real time. It feels almost like being in a real class (while still possibly in your P.J.'s!).

But, the videos stay on our page, so if you're not a morning person you can watch them anytime. (And, please, feel free to comment, like or share!)

And, if you're not even a Facebook person, you can watch them here.

This Wednesday, (Feb 14th), we'll be doing some moves to help remove your shoulders from your ears. :)

Hope to see you there!

Exercise: Resist the Head!

In this video, I demonstrate one more neck tension relieving exercise - also from the Qigong series, "Eight Pieces of Brocade" (although, this particular move is from Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming's 'sitting set', and therefore, it can easily be done, well, sitting. Or, even while you're still in bed.)

While stretching-type motions often feel good, there's something about contracting the musculature against resistance that can really help with release of a tight area. This has to do with the Golgi tendon organs, and other mysterious components of muscle tissue that responds differently with novel types of stimuli.

All you need to know is that it can help your neck, upper back, and even your mid-back feel a lot better in a pinch.

As I mention in the video, your hands are placed on the base of your skull - not your neck.

And, it's a bit more effective if you are pushing your head back n the right direction - not so much with a 'lifting' of the chin, but by tucking the chin under and sliding the head back. AS you GENTLY stretch the head forward, keep the chin tucked under.

After you do this 4-5 times, you may notice your neck muscles releasing and the stretch moving further down in to your back and spine. (You can do this up to 8 times, if it's comfortable.)

Please note: If you ever feel any kind of pain, especially of the radiating sort, use your judgement and stop the exercise, if necessary, If this kind of sensation continues, it may be wise to consult a chiropractor, or other health care professional with a background in structural issues.

Have fun! And, as always, we welcome your feedback!

Exercise: freeing and strengthening the neck

... in which I get distracted by the cameraman. :)

As you'll hear me say in the video, this move comes from a Qigong routine called, "The Eight Pieces of Brocade".

As the legend goes, it was developed in the 11th century by a Chinese general to help strengthen, revitalize and even heal his troops before and after battle. This particular exercise helped the soldiers maintain strength and mobility throughout the neck muscles in order to bear up under their heavy helmets.

For us, it can help us bear up under our 42-pound heads (Hopefully, you read that post, or you may not get the reference...)

And, as I also say in the video, it can be soooooo boooooorrrrring to do.

But, in my own experience, as well as the experience of almost everyone I've recommended it to, it's almost miraculous for dealing with neck pain, and in my case, putting an end to months of vertigo.

A few key points to remember:

~ Remember to tuck your chin under slightly and bring the ears back over the shoulders. Doing this with a hyperextended ("turtle") neck will work against you, as you'll be creating a shearing force in the vertebrae.

~ As you reach your end range of motion in the turn, think 'opening' rather than 'stretching'. This matters particularly if you have a lot of tension, as pushing past your 'easy barrier' can make the tension worse, and possibly bring on dizziness or headache.

Yeah, it's that powerful.

Okay! So give it a go and tell us what you think.

One more thing, if you are really committed to trying this out, consistency is really important.

Trying it once or twice, even a couple times a week, probably won't do much for you. In my case, I was practicing this every day for 23 days (eight times in each direction, and with three different hand positions - 24 times in all) when I suddenly felt a noticeable release in my neck and into my shoulder.

So, be patient and persevering. That's probably the hardest part of all this. (And if you have questions, or a neck condition you're dealing with, please feel free to contact us!)

Good luck! (Click the image to view...!)